Wichita Thunder

Arena woes trouble struggling Thunder

Anyone with even the most basic awareness of the local sports scene knows that Jason Duda is a gregarious sort.

So it was rather stunning to see him left momentarily speechless after the Wichita Thunder's most-recent home loss — a 5-2 setback to Mississippi on Wednesday in Intrust Bank Arena.

"I just don't know what to say," said Duda, the Thunder's interim coach.

Duda isn't alone.

The Thunder's 19-game home losing streak, a Central Hockey League record, has the entire organization frustrated and mystified.

Make no mistake, the Thunder is a bad team, perhaps headed for the worst season in CHL history. Still, it's puzzling that Wichita has been better on the road (5-16-1) than at home (2-21-3).

And it's puzzling that playing at Intrust Bank Arena hasn't provided any noticeable improvement in the team's play or intensity, as those associated with the team had expected.

Entering tonight's home game against defending champion Texas, the Thunder is 0-7 at the new venue.

"We've had games here that could have gone either way," said forward Joel Hanson, standing just outside the team's dressing room at IBA after the loss on Wednesday. "It's hard to say what's wrong. If I had the answer I would tell you.

"It's disappointing. It's frustrating. The fans definitely deserve a lot more than we've shown the past two or three games here."

After a pair of 2-1 losses in the team's first two losses at Intrust Bank Arena, the Thunder has been outscored 21-8 in the past five. Against a mediocre Mississippi team, the Thunder scored first but then gave up five straight goals and was outshot 42-18.

Duda disputed that his team now expects to lose at home, but he said the losing streak presents a mental challenge.

"I'm sure, at this point, it's weighing on the guys' minds," Duda said.